CALL TO ACTION - Urge the US Government to Step Up to Protect the Rohingya

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Curious what you can do about the atrocities in Burma? 

Take action and sign the petition calling on the US government to take measures to protect the Rohingya from Burma's army.

Sign the petition now. 

For more information on what the government is currently doing and additional steps you can take to make a difference, read the information below from Simon Billenness, the Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya. 

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.Con.Res.90 - by a vote of 423 to 3 - calling on the U.S. Administration to impose targeted sanctions on Burma's army in response to its atrocities against the Rohingya.

Now let's build on our momentum. Yesterday's House resolution puts powerful pressure on the Trump Administration to reimpose sanctions on Burma's army. Now, it is up to Congress to pass the bills that would write those sanctions into U.S. law.

Click here to tell your U.S. Representative: prevent this genocide of the Rohingya.

Click here to tell your U.S. Senator: prevent this genocide of the Rohingya.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives have introduced companion bills in the Senate and House to use U.S. leverage to end the violence, provide humanitarian assistance, and hold the perpetrators accountable. Ask your legislators to support and co-sponsor these critical bills today.

The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act (S.2060) and the Burma Unified Through Rigorous Military Accountability Act (H.R.4223) will:

  • Mandate the U.S. government to take steps to help end the repression and violence against the Rohingya and other ethnic peoples of Burma, including the Karen, Shan, and the Kachin.
  • Facilitate continued U.S. humanitarian assistance to the affected people.
  • Implement targeted sanctions against Burmese military officials responsible for the atrocities in Rakhine State and other regions of Burma.
  • Effectively prohibit U.S. military-to-military cooperation with Burma's army.
  • Call for full implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which includes recognition of citizenship rights for the Rohingya.

When the world says "Never Again" after an incidence of genocide, we have to mean it.

Click here to email your U.S. Representative.

Click here to email your U.S. Senators.

Please follow up your email by directly calling your U.S. senators and representative.  

Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative's and senators' offices. Or simply search the web for the phone number of their office in Washington, DC.

Just one email or phone call from a constituent makes a difference.  Call and email every day this week until your U.S. senators and representative's staff tell you that they will co-sponsor H.R.4223 or S.2060.

And please share this action widely with your friends and family!  If you do not live in the United States, please this share this action with your American friends.

We have the responsibility right now to help prevent an act of genocide against the Rohingya.

Let’s take action together and take action now.

 

Survivor's Journey to Success: Charles Forchenmbin from Cameroon

After more than two years apart, TASSC survivor, Charles (center), reunites with his family at Dulles Airport in May 2017. 

After more than two years apart, TASSC survivor, Charles (center), reunites with his family at Dulles Airport in May 2017. 

Charles Forchenmbin was a traditional tribal chief from the English-speaking region of Cameroon with a Master’s Degree in English and more than 20 years of experience teaching high school English. Following in the footsteps of his father, a village chief, Charles began speaking out about the harsh discrimination against Anglophones by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority in the 1990s.

“Anglophones, who make up 20 percent of Cameroon’s population, are a subjugated minority,” says Charles, “the government calls us ‘enemies in the house,’ and treats us as second-class citizens.”   Most traditional rulers are willing to help the regime maintain power by falsifying election results. But Charles refused to go along with this fraud. “It is because of dictators like Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for over 30 years,  that Africans don’t have clean water, good schools, health care and transportation,” he insists.

Charles paid a horrendous price for exposing election fraud and government corruption. He was tortured and brutalized for two weeks, forced to kneel on broken bottles and barbed wire in a horrible cell with little ventilation. He was placed under house arrest but then got in trouble for violating the house arrest order—he left his city to stop the forced marriage of a 15-year-old girl to a 70 year-old man. The girl had come to him for protection.

This was when Charles decided he had to escape Cameroon to save his life, leaving his wife and five children behind.  He crossed the U.S. Mexican border illegally and ended up being detained in Eloy, Arizona for seven months. Shortly after being released Charles came to Washington DC and found TASSC.

TASSC was everything to me when I first came to Washington,” he explains. “It felt like home, everyone was so kind and helped me with whatever I needed. They sent me to Dr. Kate Sugarman, an amazing doctor who treats survivors like me with dignity.  She documented all my injuries from the torture, and wrote a powerful document that supported my asylum claim. In December 2015, two staff members from TASSC—Andrea and Kelsey—came with me to my interview at the U.S. immigration court in Baltimore. The judge granted me asylum, then Andrea and Kelsey took me out to lunch to celebrate along with my niece. I will never forget that they were there for me on that day.

Andrea trained me to become a human rights defender and gave me so many opportunities. It was because of TASSC that I spoke on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the United States Congress, was invited to San Diego, California to tell my story to hundreds of activists and appeared on Univision. I spoke to medical professionals and students at Catholic University and the College of New Jersey. Best of all, I got to meet and take a photo with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as part of a TASSC delegation.
— Charles

The first jobs Charles had in Washington were tough and he earned very little money, sometimes less than $10 an hour. “I stocked food in a store, moved furniture out of people’s houses, did whatever I could for whatever people would pay me,” he says. ”One time I worked all day in a warehouse and never got paid the $90 they owed me. But no matter what happened, TASSC was always there to counsel me, to tell me things would get better. A kind word from Sister Denise meant so much to me when my family was so far away in Africa.”

After Charles was granted asylum, he found a six-month job helping to transport people with mental disabilities. But then he found his current job working on a payroll with a health provider. “I felt so much better,” Charles explains, “working in an office with important responsibilities and not much stress. I really started to think I was making it in America.”

But his best day came in May 2017, when my wife Evelyn told me the US embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon has just granted visas to her and my five children. It was 2:00 am at his home in Maryland—he started jumping and dancing in his house and preparing for them to come. He found an apartment for his family, registered his children in school, and started thinking about his next step.

Charles with his family and TASSC Advocacy Program Manager, Andrea Barron. 

Charles with his family and TASSC Advocacy Program Manager, Andrea Barron. 

Now that he is settled, Charles wants to continue defending human rights in Cameroon at TASSC events, while staying touch with his village in Africa—he is still tribal chief.  “TASSC sent me so many places,” he says. “It projected my image to the world, back to my people in Cameroon. My village knows that I visited Congress, met Ban Ki-Moon and told people about the oppression of Anglophones in Cameroon. And all of this happened because of TASSC.”

Survivors Share Experiences on Takoma Radio's Reggae for Refugees Program

Suzette Gardner (left) from Takoma Radio with Nanythe Talani and Fekade Ancho.

Suzette Gardner (left) from Takoma Radio with Nanythe Talani and Fekade Ancho.

Nanythe Talani from Congo-Brazzaville and Fekade Ancho from Ethiopia shared their personal experiences on Takoma Radio on November 18.  The two survivors and Advocacy Program Manager Andrea Barron were invited to speak by Takoma Radio host Suzette Gardner on her Roots Rock Reggae program. Takoma Radio is an award-winning station located in Takoma Park Maryland which reaches a potential audience of 250,000 people in parts of Washington DC, Montgomery County and areas of Northern Virginia. Listen to the show on WOWD 94.3FM.  http://www.mixcloud.com/rootsrockreggaelive/reggae-for-refugees-the-interviews/

Nanythe was a journalist and human rights activist in Congo-Brazzaville persecuted for “tarnishing the image” of her country after she published articles about government corruption and election fraud. Congo is a dictatorship ruled by one man-- Sassou Nguesso—for over 30 years. Fekade was an accountant at Ethiopian Airlines and head of the union representing Airlines employees. He was mentally and physically tortured, despite his disability from polio, when he fought a management  decision to fire all Airlines employees who were not members of Ethiopia’s ruling party.

Andrea said the Roots Reggae program on refugees and asylum seekers was an opportunity to introduce the Takoma Radio audience to two incredibly brave torture survivors forced to flee their countries because they stood up for American principles like freedom of the press and democracy, now under threat in the United States.

TASSC Survivors Visit House Speaker Paul Ryan's Office in US Capitol

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TASSC is working  hard to make sure the U.S. House of Representatives schedules a vote on House Resolution 128 on human rights abuses in Ethiopia.  Three survivors— Fekade Ancho, Assefa Kitilla and Etsegenet Kedir—had a meeting inside the U.S. Capitol Building with an aide to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan is one of the most powerful Members of Congress— he would become president if something should happen to the president and the vice-president.

House Res 128. was introduced by Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey and has 73 cosponsors. It unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 27 and was scheduled for a vote on October 2. As Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) explains, a decision was made not to proceed with the vote after the Ethiopian Embassy threatened the United States, saying Ethiopia would stop cooperating with the U.S. on counter-terrorism if there was a vote. 

Andrea said that Ethiopia is “requesting permission” from the United States to continue killing, torturing and raping its own people—that is why it objects to the Resolution. The House should not surrender to the bullying tactics of the Ethiopian government by refusing to hold a vote. Moreover, it is in Ethiopia’s interest to prevent al-Shabab from destabilizing the country. Finally, the U.S provides Ethiopia with hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance. So what right does the Ethiopian government have to give orders to the U.S. House of Representatives?

Congressman Ryan’s aide was very impressed with the testimonies of Fekade, Assefa and Etsegenet, who “put a human face” on the brutality of the Ethiopian government. TASSC will continue working with survivors and with our partners-=- Amnesty International, the Amhara Association of America and the Oromo Advocacy Alliance—until this Resolution passes the House of Representatives.

TASSC Denounces Atrocities against Rohingya as Crimes Against Humanity

The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) joins the almost 90 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which have condemned the brutal military crackdown being carried out by Myanmar against its Rohingya minority as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim ethnic group who have lived in Myanmar, or Burma, for generations but were never accepted by the majority Buddhist country. Burma refused to allow Rohingyas to become citizens and have denied them equal access to health care, education and employment because of their religion, branding them “illegal aliens” from Bangladesh. Burma has expelled the Rohingya in the past—over 120,000 were forced out of the country in 2012—but since August hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have had to flee Bangladesh to save their lives.

Burmese soldiers have destroyed over 200 Rohingya villages, slaughtered husbands in front of their wives, cut women’s throats with knives and smashed the heads of babies in front of their mothers. UN medics working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have reported cases not only of rape and sexual assault but mutilation of women’s genitals by Burmese security forces. The Burmese military is carrying out psychological and physical torture without fear of consequences. The Burmese government has refused to condemn and to call for stopping the atrocities, and to prosecute those who are behind the killings and torture.

At a September 27th hearing before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, a witness from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide testified about “mounting evidence that genocide is happening in Burma.”

As an organization committed to the elimination of torture throughout the world, TASSC is appalled by the human tragedy unfolding in Myanmar and at the failure of the international community to pressure Myanmar to stop its crimes against humanity including forcible population transfers, murder, and rape and sexual violence. Many TASSC survivors can identify with the plight of the Rohingya because they themselves were also civilians persecuted by their own governments.

TASSC adds its name to the appeal of 88 NGOs including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the National Religious Campaign against Torture, Refugees International, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Burma Task Force which is “calling on all states to immediately suspend military assistance and cooperation with Myanmar.” TASSC joins these organizations in pressing Burma to immediately end its campaign of ethnic cleansing, allow humanitarian organizations access to the Rohingya population in Burma, and permit refugees in Bangladesh to return to their homes inside Burma. TASSC also calls on the Burmese government to develop and implement a plan that re-educates its people to accept the Rohingya minority as full citizens of the country entitled to all the benefits of every other citizen of the country.

TASSC Executive Director Leonce Byimana, originally from Rwanda, said that the failure of the international community to intervene quickly allowed genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He said this “mistake should not happen again.” 

The Underground Silent Torture

Human suffering is an intricate form of silent torture. There is no civil war in Eritrea, a small country located in Northeast Africa. And there is no severe hunger or drought either. But Eritrea contributes the most refugees per capita in the world. It is a nation of only five million people. But every month thousands of youth risk their lives by crossing the deadly border into Sudan until they reach Libya, then try to escape to Italy by boat. This is why the international community is confused about the inhumanity in Eritrea; the Underground Silent Torture.

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